A debate started in another thread, off its main topic: does the lay assembly (those other than the choir or servers) have a particular role in the Tridentine Mass, specifically as celebrated according to the 1962 Missal? In a Solemn Mass or High Mass, especially, does the presence of the people make a difference to the rite?

I have probably gone to 15 Tridentine Masses over the years, most of them Low, but some High/Solemn, and one Pontifical Mass. That is a tiny fraction of the Novus Ordo Masses I have attended, and I claim no expertise in the Tridentine Mass. The point of this post is to encourage debate on the issue. To facilitate that, I have cited some texts below, and proposed some hypotheses for discussion.

First, Wikipedia’s note on Participation by the People in the Tridentine Mass

The participation of the congregation at the Tridentine Mass is interior, involving eye and heart, and exterior by mouth.

Except in the Dialogue Mass form, which arose about 1910 and led to a more active exterior participation of the congregation, the people present at the Tridentine Mass do not recite out loud the prayers of the Mass. Only the server or servers join with the priest in reciting the prayers at the foot of the altar (which include the Confiteor) and in speaking the other responses. Most of the prayers that the priest says are spoken inaudibly, including almost all the Mass of the Faithful: the offertory prayers, the Canon of the Mass (except for the preface and the final doxology), and (apart from the Agnus Dei) those between the Lord’s Prayer and the postcommunion.

At a Solemn Mass or Missa Cantata, a choir sings the servers’ responses, except for the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar. The choir sings the Introit, the Kyrie, the Gloria, the Gradual, the Tract or Alleluia, the Credo, the Offertory and Communion antiphons, the Sanctus, and the Agnus Dei. Of these, only the five that form part of the Ordinary of the Mass are usually sung at a Missa Cantata. In addition to the Gregorian Chant music for these, polyphonic compositions exist, some quite elaborate. The priest largely says quietly the words of the chants and then recites other prayers while the choir continues the chant.

The status of the Dialogue Mass is unclear to me and I would welcome clarification from those familiar with the Tridentine Mass. My understanding is that it was given its full form in an instruction by Pope Pius XII, De musica sacra et sacra liturgia. A traditionalist website (which strongly objects to the Dialogue Mass) says that

The first stage is the congregation making the liturgical responses to the prayers of the priest (i.e. Amen, Et cum spiritu tuo, Deo gratias, etc…). The second stage of participation is to say the prayers that according to the rubrics are prayed by the altar boys (i.e. the Confiteor, Domine non sum dignus, etc…). The third degree of participation is to say aloud with the celebrant those prayers that are part of the Ordinary of the Mass (i.e. the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei). The final stage of participation is to recite the Proper of the Mass with the priest (i.e. the Introit, Gradual, Offertory, and Communion verses). [De musica sacra] also gives the congregation permission to recite, in Latin only, the Pater Noster with the priest.

Finally, I examined Fortescue’s The Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described, which covers not only the Mass but also the Office and various sacraments. This book can be downloaded and searched electronically, so that I was able to to find every reference to “people”, the term Fortescue uses, and thus to see how he expects the people to have exterior participation in the liturgy.

Each such reference is reproduced at the end of this note, with three exceptions. First, he uses “the people” as a compass point in the ritual, so that at various points the priest has his right side to the people, his back to the people, faces the people, etc. I have omitted these references. Second, many liturgical actions are described several times, for Low Mass, High Mass, Mass in the presence of a prelate, etc. Here, I have indicated “repeated”, to show that the same action (e.g. incensation of the people) turns up multiple times in the text. Finally, I left off the parts of the book that refer to sacraments such as baptism, confirmation and confession, since the people are actively involved in these.

My conclusions from the analysis of Fortescue are as follows:

  1. He expects that a congregation will be present for High Masses and similar occasions.
  2. He makes it clear that the presence of the congregation is by no means necessary; their involvement is generally framed in the conditional.
  3. He doesn’t expect that the people will say or do very much. There are only a tiny number of references to the people speaking or singing, venerating the Cross, receiving communion, etc. They are more like liturgical objects (an icon, a statue of the Blessed Virgin, a cross, etc.), to be blessed, sprinkled, incensed.

Just to frame the debate: I am not claiming that this limited exterior participation is A Good Thing or A Bad Thing. Nor am I unaware that we can participate in the liturgy in an interior and contemplative manner.

I hope that we can focus on some relatively factual issues: what exterior participation generally takes place in various forms of the Tridentine Mass, as celebrated today? What exterior participation do its adherents see as highly important?  How does what I have set out above differ from the actual practice of communities where the Tridentine Mass is regularly celebrated? I hope that we can also learn more about the Dialogue Mass, as this is practiced today.

The Fortescue references follow, with page numbers in parentheses.

+ + +

The bishop … blesses the people at the end of Mass. (34)

He rises at once and holds up the Blessed Sacrament, so that it may be seen by the people. (54)

So he elevates [the chalice] to a height where it can be seen by the people above his head, lifting it slowly and straight up…  (55)

As he begins this second prayer he makes the sign of the cross over the people with his right hand (60)

he says the form of administration, Corpus Domini nostri, etc., making the sign of the cross in front of the person with the Host he holds in his right. …. Then he lays the Host on the communicant’s tongue. He repeats the sign of the cross and form of administration to each person, however many there may be. (61, repeated for different forms of Mass)

… he bows, turns by the epistle side, lays the left hand on the breast, and with the right makes the sign of the cross over the people, saying, Pater et Filius + et Spiritus Sanctus. (63, repeated)

According to the present law, after every Low Mass the celebrant with the people must say the prayers prescribed by Pope Leo XIII in 1884 and 1886; (64, note that this is outside of Mass)

If there is no permanent Communion-cloth at the Communion rail, the server must take one from the credence table and hand it to the people there.

… in all cathedral and collegiate churches the ceremony of sprinkling the clergy and people with holy water must take place before the chief Mass on Sundays…. The ceremony is in no sense part of Mass. Therefore the celebrant wears for it the cope, not the chasuble. (87, repeated)

[The thurifer] comes to the entrance of the sanctuary, genuflects, turns to the people and incenses them with three double swings, one down the middle, the next towards the epistle side, lastly towards the gospel side.  (93, repeated)

On Maundy Thursday there is a distribution of Holy Communion at High Mass. This does not often occur on other days; but any Catholic has normally a right to present himself for Communion at any Mass, on condition that he is in a state of grace and fasting from midnight.

The celebrant and ministers then go to the Communion rail and give Holy Communion to the people, accompanied by two torch-bearers. (131)

After the blessing the bishop sits; the celebrant, turning to the people, reads the form of Indulgence, if this is to be published, and if it has not already been read by the preacher. … If there is a sermon at the Mass, the preacher reads the Indulgence after he has preached. (159, note that this is outside of the Mass itself)

He again visits the chapel of the Blessed Sacrament, then leaves the church, blessing the clergy and people as he passes. (160, repeated)

The thurifer incenses the choir as at Mass, then the assistants, giving one double swing to each, the acolytes, and lastly the people, as at Mass  … The Gloria Patri of the Magnificat should not begin till the thurifer has incensed the people. (205, repeated)

The pontifical blessing follows. The bishop sits and is covered with the precious mitre. … [He] then lifts his hands and eyes, joins the hands, takes the crozier in his left and makes the sign of the cross thrice over the people, singing the form Benedictio Dei onmipotentis, etc. (224, repeated)

… the choir answers Deo gratias. The cantors come to the middle and sing the verses of the short responsory In manus tuas, the choir or people answering. (236)

In many churches in England it is the custom to form the service on Sunday evening of English prayers, or the rosary, and English hymns, followed by a sermon, and then Benediction. Since such prayers and hymns are not liturgical services, but private devotions, it is obvious that there are no liturgical rules for them, except negative ones. … The people arc more likely to join in the hymns if all stand. (238)

On arriving at the altar, after the usual genuflection, the priest spreads the corporal, opens the tabernacle, genuflects again and leaves it open, so that the people may see the ciborium. He may bring this forward in the tabernacle, that it may be better seen. He does not place it on the altar. (246)

The best known case of exposition is that of the Forty Hours … but it may happen, on other occasions, that the Ordinary allows or commands ex- position for some space of time, that the people may have this special opportunity of saying prayers. (247)

If the people receive candles, the celebrant, with his ministers, goes to the communion rail or entrance of the choir and distributes them. Each person kisses first the candle, then the celebrant’s hand. Another priest, in surplice and purple stole, may assist in distributing the candles. (259, repeated)

The servers (and presumably the people) hold the candles lighted during the gospel, and from the elevation to the Communion.  [the Mem. Rit., Tit. I, cap. ii, § 4, n. 4, says only: “clerici tenebunt candelas accensas.”] (266)

It is usual, in the case of priests and of all who are tonsured, to put the ashes at the place of the tonsure.  Lay people receive them on the forehead. (269)

Palms may now be given to the people at the Communion rail or entrance of the sanctuary. The celebrant does so, having the ministers at his sides, as before. Or it may be done by another priest, who will wear a surplice and purple stole. (275)

Only one server is absolutely necessary, to put out the candles. If there are no choir stalls, the celebrant will sit at the sedile. The choir and people may sing alternate verses of the psalms. Any nine men in cassock and surplice may read the lessons, including the celebrant. (288)

The procession goes to the sepulchre.  …  Lay people or members of confraternities may go first, holding lighted candles, then the cross-bearer between the acolytes, the clergy holding candles, lastly the celebrant between the ministers. (294)

… the servers and people recite the last two verses of the hymn Tantum ergo and Genitori. (299)

If needed, a surplice and black stole for another priest, who will hold the cross for the people to worship at the Communion rails.

The people may come up and worship the cross in the same way after the servers. (306, repeated)

Another priest in a purple stole (handed to him at this moment by the MC), or the celebrant himself, now sprinkles the people with the baptism water. (330, repeated)

First a banner of the Blessed Sacrament, borne by a clerk in surplice. Then confraternities in their dress, all holding lighted candles. Then come regulars, of which each group may walk behind its own cross; magistrates and such people (if there are any) holding candles; the processional cross of the secular clergy between the acolytes with their candles; the choir of singers, seminarists; parish priests in surplice or other ornament (if such is the custom and if the chapter is not present); the chapter and dignitaries; the two thurifers, swinging their thuribles; then the celebrant, holding the monstrance under the canopy. (357)

If possible two priests or clerks should watch all the time. Lay people who watch do so outside the sanctuary. During the exposition, if anyone has duty in the sanctuary, he must wear a surplice.Women are not to go into the sanctuary. (364)

If the bishop is in cappa his train is held by a server. As the bishop goes up the church he blesses the people. (376)

After the gospel of the Mass the faldstool or chair is placed on the foot-pace at the gospel side. The bishop sits there and addresses the people. (378)

The bishop will then give an opportunity to the people to speak to him privately, either in the sacristy or other convenient place. (384, note that this is outside of a liturgical service)

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